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Esther - Dunedin Consort - The Guardian


18 May 2012
The Guardian
Andrew Clements
4 Stars

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CKD 397 The Guardian Review

Esther is well known to have been the first of Handel's English oratorios, but exactly when it was first heard, and in what form, remains uncertain. The first version, which probably dates from 1718 and may have been performed as a masque, is effectively lost, and Handel made a total revision and expansion of the score in 1732. But John Butt and his Dunedin Consort perform what they call the "first reconstructable version" of Esther, dated 1720, which is a sacred drama whose significance to Handel's later, better-known oratorios is clear. Butt explains the historical background to the score he has created in his detailed sleeve notes, but as with all his Dunedin performances, and their previous Handel and Bach recordings, the scholarship is only a means to an end, and is never allowed to get in the way of the wonderfully crafted music making. Textures are lean - 11 singers, including the soloists, 20 instrumentalists - but wonderfully precise, and the solo contributions, with soprano Susan Hamilton as Esther, are models of stylishness.


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Handel: Esther, First reconstructable version (Cannons), 1720Handel: Esther, First reconstructable version (Cannons), 1720